Troops with riot shields and machine guns have greeted England as they pulled into their World Cup hotel in Rio de Janeiro.
After their nine-hour flight from Miami, security was high as the team arrived at the Royal Tulip hotel. Overlooking a beach - which is reportedly often polluted by sewage - and some way from the heart of the tourist action in Copacabana, it is not perhaps the luxury location that some players might have expected.
Preparation for Saturday's opener against Italy starts on Monday, when England hold an open training session at the Urca military base in the shadow of Rio's iconic Sugar Loaf mountain. The facility has been newly kitted out with gym equipment and a fresh pitch for the team's arrival. The squad will be in Rio for just a few days before jumping on a plane and heading north again with a four-hour flight to Manaus, where they play Italy at the weekend.
Much has been made of the hot and humid weather in the Amazonian city and the current outlook looks rather sticky - 32F with 71% humidity. But England boss Roy Hodgson has said the team will have enough time to acclimatise and has also downplayed the significance of the team's recent warm-up matches. Saturday's game against Honduras, rated 1500/1 to win the tournament, ended in a barren 0-0 stalemate.
Ecuador also held England to a 2-2 draw earlier this week. "I have to say these warm-up games, I don't know that they necessarily answer many questions," said Hodgson. "You answer your questions over a long period of time. "When I look at the other warm-up games I am pretty certain I am not alone in thinking it's just a way of getting yourself to Rio where the real tournament begins."
@fifaworldcup The FIFA Fan Fest is alive! Tens of thousands on Fortaleza beach, enjoying Brazilian music, World Cup moments
The World Cup draw was unfair to several teams, including the United States, but there’s a better way. See for yourself in our interactive simulator.
The United States has drawn one tough World Cup group, which includes Germany (currently the second-ranked team in the world), Portugal (ranked third) and Ghana (38th). (In the October rankings used for the Dec. 6 draw, Portugal was ranked 14th and Ghana 23rd.)
The Socceroos, as Australia’s soccer team is known, find themselves in a group with both of the finalists from the 2010 tournament, Spain and the Netherlands. If that weren’t bad enough, the final team in the group is Chile, the 13th-best team in the world, according to the FIFA rankings — which means Chile is now two places ahead of the Netherlands. In concrete terms, Australia will need to beat out two of the world’s 15 highest-ranked teams in order to advance. Nigeria, by comparison, needs merely to beat out either the 25th-ranked team (Bosnia and Herzegovina) or the 37th-ranked one (Iran).
FIFA seeded eight top teams and drew them to separate groups, but after that, geography, not skill, dictated the rest: teams from the same continent cannot be drawn into the same group, with the exception of European teams – a maximum of two of them per group is allowed. For instance, Brazil, given automatic elite status as the host country, had an equal chance of drawing the United States (ranked No. 13 at the time) as drawing Honduras (ranked No. 34) simply because both teams are from North America. Or Spain could just as likely have drawn Ghana as Cameroon (No. 59 at the time, lowest in the tournament). Ultimately, this method produces groups with a huge variance in strength, and this year’s tournament is no different.
Julien Guyon, a French mathematician, has come up with a method of drawing World Cup teams that produces more balanced groups. In the table above, we’ve made an interactive version of his method along with FIFA‘s so you can see for yourself. The Guyon method isn’t better every single time, but on average, the groups are much more balanced. The Guyon method differs from FIFA’s in a very simple way: All the teams are seeded, according to their world ranking, 1 through 32. The teams are then assigned groups in a manner similar to any other large tournament, like the N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments, with an attempt to group higher-rated teams with lower-rated ones.
Andres Iniesta and Co touched down in Brazil as Spain look to keep their title of world champions. Iniesta - goalscoring hero in 2010's final - was joined by injury doubt Diego Costa and stars such as Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in strolling through Alfonso Pena airport. Wet weather welcomed the world champions to the southeastern city of Curitiba, where Spain will be based throughout the tournament.
Spain open their defence against Holland - a repeat of the 2010 final - on Friday in Salvador, with Chile and Australia also opponents in Group B. Players and staff were whisked straight from the plane into an awaiting bus, which then took the team to their hotel and training facility at local club Atletico Paranaense, on the outskirts of the city.
Unlike in South Africa four years ago when banners and flags welcomed their arrival, there were no indications that the World Cup holders were in Curitiba, apart from signs at the training facility. But Spain will look to extend their monopoly on major tournaments for which they are eligible - the last time they did not win the World Cup or European Championship was 2006.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup got off to an exciting start today with a star-studded opening ceremony and tons of colorful performances. Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Brazilian star Claudia Leitte were all on hand to sing "We Are One" for the crowd shortly before the first game of the tournament began at Corinthians Arena.
Over 62,600 people were in attendance at Thursday's big ceremony, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and FIFA president Sepp Blatter. And just before hitting the stage in São Paulo, J.Lo shared an Instagram video of herself dancing around backstage.
At the end of the adorable clip, the mother of two says, "Who said I wasn't coming?" before sashaying off-screen. Oh, snap! She also shared multiple behind-the-scenes pictures of her getting her hair and makeup. And in one of the photos, J.Lo holds up her cellphone in a case with three pictures of her adorable twins on it. Proud mama alert! The "First Love" singer looked fabulous onstage in an emerald green leotard and Christian Louboutin ankle boots.
Wayne Rooney's crucial second-half miss was the pivotal moment in England's defeat by Italy, according to former France striker Thierry Henry. The Manchester United forward shot narrowly wide with England pressing for an equaliser with 30 minutes left to play.
Mario Balotelli's second-half header settled a tight match after Daniel Sturridge cancelled out Claudio Marchisio's opener. Former England players Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer believe England have "big problems" in defence, while ex-Three Lions defender Danny Murphy says Roy Hodgson's side will be under "immense pressure" in their second match against Uruguay on Thursday.
Thierry Henry - former France striker
"Italy did not control the game but they won, and they are masters of that. The result comes down to that Wayne Rooney miss and Mario Balotelli taking his chance from a great cross into the box. There is a debate about whether England should play Rooney out on the left like they did but, when you look at that chance he missed, he is central, and in the best position that he can be. I have missed chances like that, but Wayne will know that in a game like this one, he has to score there. He didn't, and that was the turning point for me. It was a disappointing defeat for England but remember they were not outplayed. Yes, Italy were keeping the ball at times but you could not say England did not play well either."
Wayne Rooney's assist for Daniel Sturridge was the first time he has contributed to a goal in World Cup finals
England's pass completion of 91% was the highest they have recorded in a World Cup game since 1966
Danny Murphy - former England midfielder
"But there were plenty of positives for England in defeat. Daniel Sturridge is off the mark at this World Cup and he was brilliant before he tired, which is understandable for a young player. Sterling was great too, on his competitive debut, and we created some great chances. The only worry now is that when you lose the first game it creates immense pressure on the second game, so it is a massive match now against Uruguay on Thursday. It is definitely not all doom and gloom for Roy Hodgson's side. I watched the Uruguay versus Costa Rica game earlier and, if we play with the same attacking verve we did against Italy and make that many chances in those two games, I think we will get out of this group."